Maryland 4A Boys' Basketball Semifinals

Timely Stop Means Wise Is Go for Final

Titus Till jumps for joy as 12th-ranked Wise, thanks to Phil Wood's late defense, advances to its first state title game.
Titus Till jumps for joy as 12th-ranked Wise, thanks to Phil Wood's late defense, advances to its first state title game. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 13, 2009; Page E06

With his team up by a precarious two-point margin and less than 10 seconds remaining in regulation, Wise guard Phil Wood chased Thomas Stone point guard Leon Ouzts as if he were attached by a magnet. First Wood raced down the baseline, then he shadowed Ouzts to the opposite three-point arc.

Wood couldn't let Ouzts get off a pass or a shot -- not after Wise fought back from a double-digit halftime deficit to claim the lead in yesterday's Maryland 4A semifinal at the University of Maryland's Comcast Center. Not with the Pumas' first-ever berth in the state title game on the line.

Arms outstretched and flapping, the 6-foot-2 Wood limited Ouzts to an off-balance shot that missed the basket as time expired to give Wise a 59-57 win over the Cougars.

"All I could think was I'm a senior," said Wood, who along with fellow seniors David Golladay and Delonta Boyd combined for 51 of the Pumas' points. "I didn't want to go home early. Not after everything we've done this year. I knew I was a lot bigger and I had to put my hands up and keep him from getting [a shot] over. I chased him like that's all I knew how to do."

In what Coach O.J. Johnson credited to big-game nerves, the Pumas (21-5) appeared to be caught by surprise in the first half as Thomas Stone's big men -- Stephen Battle, Kendal Smith and Dytania Johnson -- out-rebounded them and combined for 23 points.

Wise began the second half trailing 38-27, but came out aggressively. The Pumas rattled Thomas Stone (21-5) out of its rhythm with a full-court press, and completed a 13-2 run before the five-minute mark of the third quarter.

"We got a lot more physical," Johnson said. "I turned to the guys and I said we've got to bump [and] we've got to push them. "

As Thomas Stone's shooting went cold -- from 54.5 percent (18 of 33) in the first half to 31.6 percent (6 of 19) in the second half -- the Pumas created space for themselves until finally with just more than six minutes remaining in regulation Golladay scored to give Wise its first lead of the game at 48-47.

Golladay turned from the shot pounding his chest and screaming. He felt that there was no turning back for his team, in just the school's third season.

"I've been here three years," Golladay said. "I've been here since the beginning. Every win we're making history."

No. 12 Wise 59 No. 11 Thomas Stone 57 Up Next: Wise advances to the 4A final for the first time in the school's three-year history and will face Springbrook tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Comcast Center. Twice Painful: Yesterday's loss marked the second straight season that Thomas Stone exited the state tournament despite a double-digit halftime lead. The Cougars, who only returned one starter from the 2008 squad, let an 18-point halftime lead evaporate in last year's 4A final to Springbrook.

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